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Apart from a lot of sweating and snake-spotting, England weren't able to ascertain too much from their opening warm-up match at the Colombo Cricket Club. The bowlers toiled with little reward on a dead pitch while the batsmen enjoyed a succession of misleadingly unchallenging innings. Nevertheless, for Alastair Cook, who top-scored with 63 before retiring at the lunch break, the chance to build an innings over the course of two-and-a-half hours was not to be sniffed at.


For Cook, however, the more significant cricket took place not in Colombo, but in Brisbane and Hobart, where he watched with interest the success enjoyed by Australia's domineering batsmen, not least his fellow left-hander, Mike Hussey, who racked up hundreds in the first innings of each Test. Australia lost only 11 wickets out of a possible 40 en route to a 2-0 series victory, and Cook believes that the positive mindset they demonstrated - and the knock-on effect it will have on Sri Lanka's morale - is something that England have to capitalise on in the course of the next month.


"Obviously we don't know what these wickets will be like, but we saw how aggressively [Australia] played, and we know that you've got to be positive and look to score," said Cook. "On those wickets you could probably hit through the ball more, but if you just look to survive there will be a ball that gets you out." With that in mind, he's determined to master the sweep - a shot that was his undoing on several occasions in the summer. "I've been working quite hard on that as a gameplan B, and if I have to resort to it, I will."


Muttiah Muralitharan, who needs just five more wickets to overhaul Shane Warne's record tally of 708, is likely to be the target of that strategy. Few people, Cook included, doubt that the record will fall at some stage this series, but in Australia Murali managed just four wickets at exactly 100 apiece. It's proof that the man is not invincible, and Cook believes that the experience he gained from facing Sri Lanka in 2006 will help him go some way towards emulating that success.

"He's a good bowler but picking him is the key," said Cook. "Towards the end of the series in England I was picking him more and more, and if you can pick him and survive defensively, rather than defending and thinking you're going to get out, it gives you a base to work from. I certainly can't score as quickly as the Aussies did, but we'll just do the normal stuff like rotating the strike and playing from the other end."

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i think it will be a real hard test for cook playing likes of murali in a spinner friendly pitch
 
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